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You may have several different feelings when you are told you have cancer. You may feel shocked and upset. You might also feel:

  • numb
  • frightened and uncertain
  • confused
  • angry and resentful
  • guilty

You may feel some or all these feelings. Or you may feel totally different. Everyone reacts in their own way. Sometimes it's hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all.

Feelings are a natural part of coming to terms with cancer. All sorts of feelings are likely to come and go.

Helping yourself

You may be more able to cope and make decisions if you have information about your type of cancer and its treatment. Information helps you to know what to expect.

Taking in information can be difficult, especially when you have just been diagnosed. Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask and help remember the answers.

Ask your doctors and nurses to explain things again if you need them to.

Remember that you don’t have to sort everything out at once. It might take some time to deal with each issue. Ask for help if you need it.

Talking to other people

Talking to your friends and relatives about your cancer can help and support you. But some people are scared of the emotions this could bring up and won’t want to talk. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation.

It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. But talking can help increase trust and support between you and them.

Help your family and friends by letting them know if you would like to talk about what’s happening and how you feel.

You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family. We have cancer information nurses you can call on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Or you may prefer to see a counsellor.

Physical problems

After surgery to remove your larynx you might have to cope with changes in how you breathe and speak.

These changes can be very difficult to cope with. They can affect the way you feel about yourself, your self esteem and how you relate to others (especially those very close to you). If you are in a sexual relationship, some of these changes may also affect your sex life. 

You might also have to cope with feeling very tired (fatigue) and lethargic a lot of the time. This is common in a lot of people who have cancer in the head and neck area, especially if the cancer is advanced.

Coping practically

Practical things you and your family might need to cope with include:

  • money matters
  • financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants
  • work issues
  • childcare

Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. Getting help early with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later.

Remember that you don't have to sort everything out at once. It may take some time to deal with each issue. 

Ask for help if you need. You doctor or specialist head and neck nurse will know who you can contact to get some help. 

Last reviewed: 
25 Jul 2018
  • Head and Neck Cancer: Multidisciplinary Management Guidelines (2011)
    British Association of Head and Neck Oncologists, 4th edition

  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J. Tobias and D. Hochhauser
    Wiley Blackwell, 2015